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Not So Golden…

Interesting article from Baseball Info Solutions about the best fielding outfielder in baseball, who do you think it is?  I assumed that it was Franklin Gutierrez, but I guess that story’s been told and he wasn’t quite as good last year as the past couple of years.  Nope, it’s not Ichiro, or Carl Crawford and it’s definitely not Shane Victorino or Carlos Gonzalez.  Nope, it’s not Michael Bourn or Brett Gardner, but way to pay attention, because those two are really good.  Nope, the article makes a convincing case that Peter Bourjos, who will be starting in between Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, was actually baseball’s best outfielder last year, albeit in limited appearances.   The question with Bourjos isn’t whether he can throw or catch, but rather whether he can hit enough to stay in the lineup.  As someone who has watched Vernon Wells in center for the past couple years, I have to say that Angel fans better hope Bourjos gets a couple “seeing” eye singles…

Anyhow, what really interested me about the piece was this side box,

The top individual defensive seasons at any position from 2003-10:

Player Season Position Runs Saved
Adam Everett 2006 SS 34
Chase Utley 2008 2B 33
Franklin Gutierrez 2009 CF 32
Chone Figgins 2009 3B 31
Troy Tulowitzki 2007 SS 30
Ichiro Suzuki 2004 RF 30
Albert Pujols 2007 1B 29
Scott Rolen 2004 3B 28
Jack Wilson 2005 SS 28
Craig Counsell 2005 2B 28

I know that the ineptitude of the Gold Glove voters is an old story, like the Bible only with no salvation, but this list is a classic example of how the voters continually miss the mark.  These are arguably the ten best defensive performances of the last eight seasons.  Guess how many of theses guys won Gold Gloves?  If you guessed four, I could see that.  I mean Ichiro’s a given.  Rolen has won a bushel, so he’s not a bad choice either.  Albert Pujols and Chase Utley are big stars, so surely they won… Except, they didn’t.  The total is two.  Ichiro and Rolen.  That’s it.

In 2006 Adam Everett’s award went to Omar Vizquel, which wouldn’t have been a bad decision, if it’d been made five years earlier.  In 2008 Utley’s award was given to Brandon Phillips, but since he won that year’s Fielding Bible award I can’t get too worked up there.  Gutierrez of course won last year – when he wasn’t as good; a classic example of the Gold Gloves’ go-to move: awarding a great fielder a year (or two, or three…) after they’ve become the best.  So, Gutierrez’s 2009 award is sitting in Hunter’s storage locker.  That same year Figgins was having a career year with the stick and the glove, but he lost out to Longoria.  Defensible, I guess.

2007 saw two big stars (well, one MASSIVE star and one burgeoning star) have phenomenal seasons without hardware.  Considering the managers voters LOVE giving Gold Gloves to undeserving offensive stars (see: Jeter, Derek), I am flabbergasted over how the deserving Albert Pujols has won only two GG.  Whatever, I’m sure it wont stop him from getting a massive contract, but it’s strange. That year his award was given to Derek Lee, other years it’s been given to Adrian Gonzalez, neither are like anointing Michael Young the best shortstop in baseball, but they aren’t particularly inspired either (in 2008 when Gonzalez won, he finished 11th in the Fielding Bible voting).

Tulowitzki is less surprising, as he was a rookie that year and you can’t actually expect managers to pay attention to the season on which they’re voting.  That’s what awarding a rookie would mean.  It’s better to award someone less deserving (Rollins) and find out about the rookie a year or three later when the clatter about how good they are becomes so abrasive that you cannot ignore it…

2005 saw two fringy players have great seasons.  Jack Wilson played for Pittsburgh and Craig Counsell played for Arizona, teams that lost a combined 180 games.  Even their own fans weren’t watching their games, so we can’t really be surprised that their hardware went to Luis Castillo and that Vizquel guy again.

Which brings us to 2004.  Of the ten best fielding seasons in the last eight years, only 2004 saw those players rewarded with hardware.  Was it that the voters were particularly adroit that year?  Well, no probably not.  The two winners were classic Gold Glove candidates.  Great hitters, who had won the award in several successive seasons.  In the case of Rolen it was his fifth straight award and in the case of Ichiro it was his fourth straight.  Of course Ichiro’s streak is still going, so whether or not Bourjos is the best fielder this season, you can bet that his Gold Glove will be sitting next sesason on Ichiro’s mantle…

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